Everything you need to know about your Jotter Mobile v1.8 Update

Published: April 28, 2017

Jotter Mobile just got even better with the release of v1.8, which will roll out across all apps by May 5th.
After lots of market research our developers have created the features you most requested, and we hope you will benefit from this free update.                     
Here are some of the changes you can expect to see:

Custom apps:

  • Custom sections in the navigation structure. Each custom link consists of a name, icon and an URL. You can define up to three custom sections.
  • Reordering and disabling of sections in the drawer menu and the dashboard tray. These are edited from the Mobile Centre module.

All apps:

  • Notification badges on sections within the app. These show that new content has been added but not read by the user.
  • New expanding dashboard tray option. This can be configured at the delivery stage or can be added with PCR.

If you would like more information about v1.8 or Jotter Mobile please call 0800 862 0492 or fill out our short contact form.

10 Ways to Involve Hard To Reach Parents

Published: August 31, 2016

According to research by Clare Campbell (2011), hard to reach parents are defined as those who:
“— have very low levels of engagement with school
— do not attend school meetings nor respond to communications
— exhibit high levels of inertia in overcoming perceived barriers to participation.”
Having greater parental / carer involvement isn’t just about helping at the bake sale; pupils whose parents actively engage with school attain more, so it’s vital to make that connection. Reluctant parents with low self-esteem cite their own negative school experiences for lack of engagement, so what can be done to encourage them to join in?

  • Parent Profile

For reluctant parents and carers, it’s particularly important to find out what makes them tick. Do they have any outside interests? You might find they have a skill that the school could use, like speaking a second language or a talent for arts and crafts. Taking the ‘glass half-full’ approach and focussing on the parents’ assets will raise their self-esteem and build positive relationships. By getting to know the hard to reach parent, the school is saying, “You matter as much as your child.”

  • Electronic Brochure

That’s essentially what a school website is but has the potential to be so much more. It’s important to have a site that reflects the school’s ethos and brand. Apart from essential information such as staff bios and Ofsted reports, your website should be the communications hub of your school. The calendar and newsletter should be continuously updated. Useful research data can be obtained through regular online surveys. Hard to reach parents would benefit from being able to securely access a portfolio of their child’s work.

  • Connect

It’s vitally important to keep parents up to speed with what’s happening in school and with their children at all times. Poor communication, whether justified or not, is a common complaint from parents. Letters sent home in the school bag often go unread – assuming they’ve reached their destination in the first place. Chatting at the ‘school gate’ is beneficial but can be hit and miss. A more effective solution to sketchy communication is a school mobile app for parents. These apps allow parents to access the latest school news and important dates, as well as receive instant alerts such as an activity being cancelled. This saves time and improves relationships by keeping parents fully aware.

  • Support Workshops

Supporting pupils with their learning at home is paramount, although some hard to reach parents feel ill-equipped, especially if their child has behaviour issues. Offering drop-in workshops during and after school is a way to bridge the gap, particularly if parents know their involvement can really make a difference. Workshops could cover basic numeracy and literacy support guidance.

  • Storytime

It’s a sad fact that fewer children are being read to in the home. Shared stories help develop reasoning, imagination and communication skills, as well as an interest in reading and writing. Those pupils who would rather play computer games or watch TV need particular attention, as this is often a smokescreen for a feeling of inadequacy with reading. One way to encourage reading at home is to have a ‘Story Time with Parents’ initiative in school. Some children may never have heard their parent read a story, which can have a profound effect.

  • Promote School Spirit

To encourage school spirit from the outset, set up a ‘boast board’, where teachers, governors, parents and pupils can post about what excites them about the coming school year. Regular blogging or podcasts can engage hard to reach parents by introducing topics they relate to. Posts don’t have to focus purely on what’s happening in school. It might be a discussion on different behaviour management techniques or it could be a recipe for paper mâché. Make it readable and keep it fairly light. School Facebook and Twitter accounts can be used to share your blog, raising the school’s profile. Social media is useful for school trips too, so parents can share in the experience and keep track of what’s going on.

  • Outreach

Although this might be seen as a last resort, there are occasions when paying a home visit is necessary. This type of approach might be met with hostility from some parents, however if handled correctly, it can pay dividends. Keep it relaxed and friendly; ask for a hot drink if one isn’t offered, as it’s amazing how bonding can begin over a cuppa. Don’t be judgemental – the parent may already be thinking they’re in trouble. Take an interest and keep it chatty, eventually focussing on the child(ren). Hopefully the parent(s) will appreciate you took the time to visit.

  • Speak Their Language

With an increasing number of immigrant parents with little or no English, it can be a nightmare getting them involved with school. Add to that any cultural differences that may preclude certain activities and hit a brick wall. The ideal solution is to ask for help from community leaders or other parents who understand the situation. These helpers should be able to start building a relationship for the school and encourage some form of involvement, however small.

  • Ditch the Cattle Market Parents’ Evening

For hard to reach parents, parents’ evening is a dreaded event. They may feel unable to speak to the class teacher on their level, causing deep embarrassment. Having to mix with lots of other parents could make them uncomfortable, particularly if the school intake has a wide socioeconomic range. And as is the common practise in many schools, having the pupils’ workbooks on display can have a negative effect on parents whose children have below average attainment. If possible, schedule private consultations on different days for these parents. If you remove many of the uncomfortable aspects, they are far more likely to attend.

  • What Do They Want?

This may seem an obvious question but is often omitted. What does a parent want from the school and for their child? What areas are most important to them? It could be attaining excellent SATs scores or it might be developing better social skills and behaviour. You might find asking this question opens up a continuing, positive dialogue with hard to reach parents, simply because no one else has ever bothered to ask them.

Closing the Gender Gap in Literacy

Published: July 19, 2016

As a retired primary teacher I find it unsurprising that numerous studies show a gender gap where girls are significantly outperforming boys in literacy. One of the latest studies, commissioned by Save the Children, has found that the female advantage is established even before they step foot in the classroom. Understanding the Gender Gap in Literacy and Language Development was undertaken by researchers from Bristol University’s Graduate School of Education. Apparently in the 2014/15 school year, one in four boys were behind in language at age five and started Reception without being able to follow simple instructions or speak a full sentence. The report also states that for those children who start school behind, few will catch up.

While the gap appears to exist for all socio-economic groups, it was wider for those children eligible for free school lunches. Whereas the overall ratio was 25% of boy starters unable to answer simple “how” and “why” questions compared to 14% of girls, this escalated to 35% and 23% for lower income families. Several of the schools where I taught had ‘breakfast clubs’ before school, run by volunteers. It was a sad fact that this club was bursting at the seams. Whether this was simply due to poor time management by parents or because of economic factors, cereal and toast were gobbled up greedily. Once the children’s blood sugar levels rose, behaviour improved and they stayed on task longer. But where gender difference is concerned, evidence from the Save the Children study couldn’t definitively point to biological, developmental or social causes. An earlier study in 2008 by the Institute of Education (part of the Millennium Cohort Study) found that for both sexes attainment was better for children with two working parents, particularly if they held qualifications. Pupils in stepfamilies or with one parent had lower achievement.
Department for Education
The DfE produced a report in 2009 entitled Gender and Education – Mythbusters Addressing Gender and Achievement: Myths and Realities where they tended to refute most of the gender gap findings, however the evidence spoke for itself when it came to girls attaining higher in English. At key stage two, the gap is considerably wider for writing than reading but this is hardly news to me, as I repeatedly felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get boys to write. The DfE say that increased provision has been made for Early Years practitioners to try and redress the gender gap but is it too little, too late?
I recall an old study that maintained girls were better communicators because female babies tended to be carried facing inwards, whereas boys faced outwards. Facing inwards allowed babies to see their parents’ faces and be spoken to directly. They would learn to read facial expressions and understand nuance more quickly than if carried outwards. Somewhat controversially, the Save the Children study advocates treating boys more like girls. Girls tend to be sung to and have nursery rhymes recited to them. The researchers want to boys to experience this in equal measures, as well as having storybooks read to them and being given rewards for good performance. More creative activities such as painting and drawing are also seen as a way to help with cognitive development. But is it fair to lay all the blame at parents’ feet for the gender gap in attainment? Schools need to build a trusting relationship with parents and carers, working with them to promote the importance of one-on-one activities at home. Pupils need to be taught the value of being self-reliant and independent learners, which will raise self-esteem.
Role Models
There are relatively few male Early Years practitioners in UK schools. It’s more typical for men to teach at secondary level, with a view to obtaining headships. With so many single parent families where dad is seldom seen, a positive male role model is vital. In my last primary school they had no less than four male teachers out of 12, one of whom was in Early Years. This state school had some of the best behaviour I’d experienced and the male teachers certainly contributed to that. They provided a different caring style and allowed children to see a more natural gender mix, representative of society. Surely the DfE should do more to recruit male teachers into primary and particularly Early Years.
Methods of Delivery
There is little doubt that even the youngest pupils relate to technology, as it can be exciting and varied. In my KS1 class, while girls would often grab a book and sit in the reading corner, the boys competed for the two computers where they could play games, albeit with an educational objective. More provision should be made at Foundation Stage for pupils to have access to a virtual learning environment. Lower achievers could work through specially designed modules to help them catch up with language skills. As many schools may not have the funds to provide sufficient portable devices to use, a BYOD (bring your own device) policy could be introduced, so that pupils could bring in a tablet or smartphone from home. If boys are more reluctant to read and write, interactive storyboards and gamification could provide the catalyst needed to spark their interest. The beauty of BOYD is that any elearning content can be easily accessed at home as well as at school, hopefully encouraging parents to get more invested in their children’s education.

Should you be using social media in the classroom?

Published: March 9, 2016

Today we are sharing some ideas about how social media could be used in the classroom and how it can benefit your classroom and your school.

Connecting, communicating and sharing. Connect and communicate with other classrooms through social media. Connect and share resources with other teachers from your school or from other schools. You can also use hashtags to facilitate guest speaker discussions.

Improving teamwork. Use social media for class discussions. Create a private group for discussing a particular topic or engage in open discussions.

Engagement. Engage with students, parents and communities by posting updates regarding school news and events

Learning. Share online learning resources with students. Add links to useful websites, videos and documents online. Encourage students to share useful learning materials with their peers.

Staying up to date. Require students to post news related or any other trending articles. This activity encourages students to read relevant articles every day.

Sharing. Use social media platforms to share the work of your students. Publish interesting articles, presentations or other projects that your students create.

Increasing awareness of your school. Sharing links to your school website on social media can help increase the search engine rankings which means that your school website attracts more visitors that can lead to more people choosing your school.

To conclude, it is worth looking at different methods of incorporating social media in the classroom. It does not have to become a permanent thing, give it a go and maybe you will discover something that really helps to engage with students. Make sure you always educate your students how to use social media safely.

Adding a form to your School Jotter homepage

Category: Customer Training

Published: January 28, 2016

Adding forms is fairly easy to do, but it can be a little difficult to work out where you need to go at first. Forms can be a great way to gather information or collect responses from parents. They’re a simple tool with genuinely hundreds of uses.
To start with, we’re going to need to create the forms in the Jotter management area.

This will bring up the form management page. Two are created for you by default, for contacting the school and for reporting absences – we’ve found these two can be very helpful to schools on their own. Let’s have a look at how to create your own form though – click Add Form at the top of the box and you’ll see this screen.

Note that what we’re creating here is more of a “container” for the form questions to sit in. Here’s an explanation of the fields:

  • Name – The name of the form, only used internally
  • Introduction Text – Text to appear before the form, to tell people what it is
  • Additional Action – Whether you want the form to email people with completed responses
  • Email – The address to which completed forms should be sent

Click Add Form and it’ll be added to the list of forms from before, alongside Contact and Absence. Click the link marked Fields to the right of your new form name, and you’ll get this screen – note that this is one of the prepopulated ones, if it’s a new form it will be blank.

All you can do here is click Add Field, which brings up the fields page. This is where we start to actually build our form, and there’s a number of types of field you can create. It’s important for your data that the proper categorisation is used:

  • Text Field – plaintext, such as a person’s name
  • Phone – A phone number – it’s important this isn’t text or numeric in order to keep the leading 0 in phone numbers
  • Email – An email address
  • URL – Somebody’s website
  • Numeric – Raw numerical data
  • Text area – A larger, multi-line box for more detailed feedback
  • Dropdown – A list of options – specify them in the third box which will appear, separating them with commas only (not spaces)
  • Date – A date box
  • Captcha – A field used to ensure a human is completing the form (and not a web-crawling robot)
  • Radio – similar to dropdown, let people choose an option from a list

The Required checkbox will specify whether or not that field needs to be filled for the form to be submitted. Once you’re happy with your field, click Add Field. You’ll need to do this a few times to build your form out, with items such as name, phone number, email address etc – it’s up to you what you add!
You can see a preview of what a complete form looks like by clicking Fields next to the Absence or Contact form, as shown above.
To get the data out of your forms, you’ll need to click on Submissions, which will let you filter them and download them as a CSV spreadsheet if you need to.
Now let’s put the form on your website – you should be familiar with how this works by now, but here it is!

Go to your website, click Insert Item then select Form. Choose where you want it to be. You’ll then be asked to insert a form – you can also manage your forms from this box. You can change this later from the grey dropdown at the top of the window.
And that’s it, you should now have a form on your website!

Introduction To: Spellings | Webanywhere Blog

Published: November 27, 2015

We recently launched our new Spellings app, and have been totally overwhelmed by the responses so far – it seems this is a product that a lot of schools are interested in! It’s not hard to see why either – we’ve created an easy way for you to automatically set, mark and track spelling tests online, and our advanced features really do make it stand out from the crowd.

To start with, you don’t even need to actually set spelling tests yourself – just import some from our bank of pre-made and community-submitted accounts. Only customers can contribute to the community, so you won’t need to worry about any bad words sneaking in, and we’ll be moderating tests. Additionally, our pre-made tests have been created with the curriculum in mind, so you’ll have a complete set of lists ready to go from the start!

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Managing and embedding calendars in School Jotter

Published: November 5, 2015

We’ve had a couple of people now ask us how to use the free Calendar feature in Jotter Site. It’s a really popular feature, present on hundreds of our websites already, but it can be a bit confusing to set up, so we’re here to guide you through it.
If you’ve ever used a calendar app before, whether it’s Google Docs, Microsoft Outlook or Apple’s Calendar, the interface should be immediately familiar to you, but it can take some time to learn where things are and what they’re known as in Jotter.

It can look a bit daunting at first, so we’ll go over it piece by piece.

  • Add Event – This button, at the top, lets you create an event or reminder
  • Add Calendar – This button lets you create calendars – sort of a category within the main app, that helps with organisation.

And then the options at the side:

  • Your calendars – Your calendars will appear here, you can click them to toggle their display on the panel to the right.
  • Settings – Change the important things
  • Recycle Bin – Where deleted calendars go

We’ll start with Add Calendar – this is the simplest and easiest thing to do, and will really help you with both getting information out and categorising it at the back.

The name is the name of the calendar, and the description is, well, self-explanatory. I’ve categorised mine into “Clubs and Performances”, “Parents’ Evenings” and “PE” – all things parents might like to know about, though of course what you do is your own choice! Next, let’s have a look at Add Event.
This is a bit more complex than the last one, so we’ll go over it bit by bit again.

  • Calendar – Specify which calendar you’d like the event attached to
  • Title – What you want to call the event
  • Start date, start time, end date, end time – When the event will begin and end, or alternatively check All Day for all-day events.
  • Repeat – Set how often the event will repeat, if it’s a repeat event – see below
  • Where – The location
  • Description – What people will see when they click on the event
  • Colour – You can colour-code events to make the calendar a bit easier to read

The Repeat dialog can be a bit daunting, so here’s a run-down of that
Again, we’ll go by it bit by bit:

  • Repeat – whether you’d like it done daily, weekly, monthly or yearly
  • Every – how many of those time intervals should pass between each event
  • Repeat on – which days you’d like
  • Starts – the first instance of the event
  • Ends – The end conditions for it – whether it’s endless, ends on a specific date or after a set number of occurrences.

You’ll get a handy summary at the bottom of what you’ve selected – you can see my event is set to repeat every two weeks on Tuesday and Wednesday for 10 weeks.
Once that’s done, just press Create Event to send it all live. Made a mistake? Don’t worry, by clicking on the event in the calendar view you’ll be able to make edits to specific instances or even entire series of events.
Now let’s take a look at the Settings page. This is where you can start to get really fancy with what you’re doing.

Here you can import or export your calendars to use in whatever app you’d like.

  • Edit details – Change the description or name of a calendar
  • Share – Determine which groups can edit your calendars – you might want to give the PTA special access to an events calendar, for example
  • Export – Export the calendar in iCal format, for use in your app of choice
  • Import – Take an iCal file and put it into Calendar
  • Delete – Remove the calendar to the Recycle Bin
  • Public URL – create a text string you can use to import an automatically-updating calendar feed in your personal calendar app.

Okay, so you have a calendar now, and it’s looking great. Putting it on your website, ePortfolio or Learnsite is really easy, just go to the page in Edit mode and click Insert Item, then Calendar.

Then you’ll see this dialog:

Choose the ones you want to display using the buttons at the top (you can pick more than one!), then click Choose, and there you have it, your calendar is embedded. Anyone can scroll through the embedded calendar using the controls at the top, including viewing things on a per-week or even per-day basis! You can change the default view using the grey bar at the top of the screen when in Edit mode and the calendar is selected.

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School Jotter Tips: Using newsletters, part 2

Category: Customer Training

Published: October 22, 2015

Last week we showed you how to use Jotter site to send email updates to parents. This week we’ll be covering how you can use Site to upload and disseminate newsletters.
As with last week, you’re going to want to go into Edit mode then click Manage, but this time we’re going into News.

Clicking it will bring up the dialogue box below – it’s empty by default, but I pre-populated mine with some content a few months back. The two big options are Add News and News Categories. The former is for content, the latter for organisation, we’ll deal with the latter first, to give us a nice framework.

Categories are handy both for organising your content in the backend, and also for specifying feeds later on. Adding them is just a matter of clicking News Categories, then clicking Add News Category to get the following view. Fill it out with relevant information (for example, you might want a category for sporting achievements, or for upcoming school trips).

We can now go back to the main news dialogue and click Add News to begin crafting our news item.

Here’s a brief overview of each section:

  • Category: The category you specified earlier
  • Title: What you want the title of your post to be
  • Description: Flavour text, displayed as an overview of the story
  • Content: The main body, where your news item will go
  • Image: If you want to illustrate your story, you can attach an image

When you’re done, click Add News. Now you need somewhere to publish it. Go to the page you’d like to insert your news feed on and, in Edit mode, click Insert Item, then News.

By default, the box you put in will automatically display the five most recent news items you’ve created, including their titles and descriptions. Clicking on the news box while in edit mode will bring up the following bar at the top of your page.

You can customise this box with the drop-down menus as follows:

  • Type: Whether you want the news box to be active or archived – if you have a dedicated news page, you might wish to display news from the past with less information.
  • Category: The category you created earlier – by default it will pull through all news
  • Image: Whether or not the articles have images next to them
  • Articles: How many pieces of news will display by default
  • Pagination: On dedicated news websites, setting this to “on” will automatically load new pages when you reach the bottom of the current one

As you can see, you can customise this to look pretty much any way you like!
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School Jotter Tips: Using newsletters, part 1

Category: Customer Training

Published: October 15, 2015

Parents want to know what’s happening at your school – what’s the best way to tell them? In the past it was crumpled sheets of A4 hastily stuffed into folders and rucksacks, to hopefully be handed to parents a few weeks later. Luckily, your website lets you manage this in a much easier way. Two ways, in fact! This week we’ll be looking at email newsletters, and next week we’ll cover news items.

Part One: Newsletters

Newsletters are emails you can send out to your subscriber list. Setting them up couldn’t be simpler either.
First, you’re going to want to create some Newsletters in your Jotter Site backend. Log in, visit your homepage and click on the Manage tab, then click “Newsletters”.

You’ll see the following screen, showing a list of any emails you might have created – by default though, this will be blank. You’ll notice two options at the top: Add Newsletter and Subscriptions.

First, we’ll look at the subscriptions area, this is where you manage who the emails will go to.

We’ll go through the buttons at the top in order now:

  • Add subscription – Allows you to manually input a username and email
  • Download spreadsheet – Lets you export your subscribers to a CSV file
  • Import spreadsheet – Lets you import a CSV of names and email addresses

Additionally, you can edit and unsubscribe individual addresses manually by using the Edit and Unsubscribe links to the right of each field.
Please note, you can only have the one address book, so we recommend using it for parents and interested parties.
Now we can go back and look at the Add Newsletter dialogue
To anyone who’s used an email client before, this should be pretty straightforward:

  • Title: The subject line of the email you want to send
  • Description: The text and content you’d like to include in the email
  • Date: When you plan to send the email
  • File attachment: Used for things like images or PDFs

Once that’s filled in and saved, all you need to do is click “Email to subscribers” on the main newsletter screen (the second image), and confirm you want to send it. And that’s it, you’re done! Next week, we’ll be showing you how to embed newsletters into your site, for a self-updating page.
Want to receive tips like this straight to your inbox? Sign up here! To read part two of this tutorial, click here.